Tag Archives: cinema

(some) Movies are still Great Films

23 Jul

Recently, I was reading the Economist online. Their culture blog features an article entitled “The Art of Mark Ruffalo.” My first thought, at quick glance, was “wow, he’s an artist too?”  My brain has been trained, in this modern age of smash & grab, hit & run, blast you to death cinema, to think of actors in movies as a trade and cinematic actors as a dying art form.  When you say “actor” (at least in American terminology), often the term “artist” is not used interchangeably anymore.

I find this incredibly sad.

I was an aspiring actress once.  Ok, it was in middle school.  But I was drama this, drama that, drama, drama everywhere – and then there were the acting classes.  Really though, I watched each year’s Academy Awards in the fashion of Abigail Breslin in “Little Miss Sunshine.”  My mind would run rampant with fantasies of wearing a sweeping elegant gown while accepting that “big” award.  Later, realizing I have a flair for the bossier side of life, I flirted with the idea of directing.  And as an adult, finding a passion in writing, I’ve toyed with the notion of being a screenwriter.  Or I did, until I worked in the “biz” for a year and saw that screenwriters in Hollywood are something akin to Rodney Dangerfield.  And if I want that little respect, I can continue to sit around the house with kids all day (at least they’re cute while they ignore me).

I grew up in a Masterpiece Theater meets M*A*S*H household (Mom, Dad, in that order of course).  And classic movies were the norm on weekends, from Paul Newman to early Bond films to Hitchcock to Claudette Colbert to Cary Grant to Shirley Temple, and everything in between.  No, I’m not THAT old.  Most of these movies predated even my parents, but we all enjoyed the cinematic structure of a great drama.  Suspense, action and science fiction were favorites as well.  But the expectation of great acting and a good story was never far behind.  Could they manage to make a film like “The Sting” these days?  Very doubtful.

Comedy was popular as well.  But again we were geared toward either classic film or british television for laughs, All in the Family and Saturday Night Live were the exceptions.

I’m a Sundance Channel junkie.  Here I can find great drama and foreign films to my heart’s content, my latest faves being “Caché” and “The Lives of Others“.

Although my parents were medical professionals by trade, they had a refined sense of cinematic structural importance and what makes a good movie great.  My brother and I were fortunate enough (or perhaps, misfortunate enough) to pick this up.  We are the quintessential armchair critics.  Exchanging notes along the lines of: Movie X had a fine story line, but the acting didn’t quite measure up.  Movie B featured awe-inspiring special effects, too bad it lacked on every thing else.  When either of us sees the rare movie that ranks as “great” by our family standards, we are quick to pick up the phone and tell the other “you MUST see that movie, it’s not just a movie it’s a film…”

I made such a call earlier this week.  The day after I saw was blown away by Inception.” Now, I’ll be the first to admit, great cinematic features are such a rarity these days that one must stop one’s self from over-emphasizing the “greatness” of a movie until one has taken some time to reflect on said movie – the morning after.  And, of course, the special effects in “Inception” don’t hurt.  Pretty cool would be the technical term.  But the morning after I simply loved the storyline more.  I won’t get too specific – that would be a MAJOR spoiler.  But, I’ll tell you, as I told my brother, it’s a must see film.  They just don’t make them like that anymore.  The intricacy of the parallel storylines.  The depth of the characters (read: actors) in deed and in naming.  The trigger-point perfect editing and soundtrack.  The ability to leave you with the feeling that you must, absolutely must, question the world around you.  Stellar on all levels.  That’s a rarity.  If you haven’t seen it, go see it!  As my brother & his wife are doing right now.

So, that brings us back to Mark Ruffalo.  He has a new film out “The Kids Are All Right” about a married lesbian couple (Annette Benning, Julianne Moore) dealing with family acceptance or lack thereof.  While the article in question veers off onto a tangent about the inherent sexiness of Mark Ruffalo (I don’t disagree), I appreciate him most for his great depth of ability while channeling a character.  He has that je ne sais quoi that seems to allude so many of today’s actors.  Granted, in this movie, he’s surrounded by true thespians in their own rights, so I’ve no doubt the movie is good, if not great.  But, really, I’m just pleased to see that “acting” is still considered an art form, at least in some circles.